Friday, February 17, 2012

The 1908 Pattern Sword--a medieval weapon in a modern war

For much of World War I, the Canadian cavalry were in the trenches along with their infantry brothers, their swords and spurs left behind.
When planning for the terrible battle on the Somme, however, it was hoped that the infantry would manage a breakthrough and the cavalry would charge into the gap. That didn't happen on the Somme, but the cavalry did see mounted action in 1917 when the German army staged a fighting retreat to the Hindenburg Line, and again in 1918 during the German's Operation Michael and the last 100 days.
On those occasions the troopers' primary weapon was a straight-edged, sharp-pointed stabbing weapon known officially as the "Sword, Cavalry, Pattern 1908 Mark I". Fanciful drawings of cavalry slashing wildly were not accurate; the ideal maneuver was to pierce the enemy as horse and trooper galloped past, then jerk the sword out, and swing the arm forward to thrust again. The "1908" weighs about three pounds, is straight-edged with a sharp point. It is 35 inches long and has a leather grip with a round guard to shield the hand. Infantrymen in the open, faced with a cavalry charge--the thunder of hooves, screams of men, and levelled swords--would be tempted to turn and run. Exactly what the cavalry hoped for.
It is not without irony, as noted elsewhere, that the ideal cavalry weapon was not available until the cavalry itself was on its last legs.

2 comments:

Pat and Marcus said...

Bob, you might find this information, and depictions, on the 1908 to be interesting:

http://www.militaryhorse.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=17&t=11190

This isn't the only 1908 thread we have up on SMH, but it's recent and has good depictions.

Robert Mackay said...

Pat and Marcus--
Can't believe I missed your comment, and reference, until recently. Very interesting, and thanks.

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